FOR SECTION INDEXES
The Lighter Side
Bridging the Gap between Hospital and Home
A hospital stay can be a life changing experience for an elderly patient, unfortunately, not always for the right reasons. Readjusting back to normal life is always difficult, particularly when rehabilitation programmes have not been started early enough, a factor highlighted as typical in a recent report by the Audit Commission. But, with many hospitals close to breaking point, what is the answer? Sara Aubrey-Fletcher of Chilton House in Aylesbury believes that perhaps it is time that the health service took a much closer look at the role that convalescence plays.
These days, most patients who have undergone an operation are sent home after the very briefest of stays in hospital. As a result, many leave without having been rehabilitated back to their day-to-day life. They may not be able to manage alone at home, nor reach the vital services of the physiotherapist, which in any case will usually be limited to less than three sessions per week . Residential help is often scarce and families and friends are frequently scattered and busy.
Ironically, it is often the efficiency of the hospital environment that is at fault, with patients encouraged to stay in bed whilst everything they need is brought to them. As the number of operations carried out on older patients continues to increase, so to does the trauma of rehabilitation.
It has been proven that patients recover better away from the hectic and pressurised environment of a hospital, particularly after those operations where the patient is left partially immobilised. A convalescence home with the right environment and the all-important physiotherapy programme enables patients to concentrate on getting better and returning to independence as soon as possible.
As owners of Chilton House, a residential and convalescence home in Buckinghamshire, it is not surprising that we extol the virtues of rehabilitation for older people. We see the dramatic changes undergone by our patients, and therefore truly believe in the benefits it offers. It is extremely rewarding to see the results of our efforts as, day by day, immobile patients become stronger and more active and regain their independence. Patients continue to face dramatic changes when they go home. It is not only bathing, climbing in to bed or up the stairs it is also getting dressed, cooking, answering the door and being forced to deal with the running of their home before they are ready to do so. Under the guidance of professionally trained staff, during convalescence patients are encouraged to make their own way and start doing things independently. It is often all to do with confidence. Convalescence homes have staff specifically trained to rebuild this confidence and rehabilitate patients. They are encouraged to push the bounds of recovery, but only within the limits of their capabilities.
Investing in Convalescence homes may also prove to have financial benefits for the government. It costs an authority around £500 a night per patient in hospital, whilst in a convalescence home this figure reduces to £130. But it is not just the Government that needs to take note of convalescence, the medical profession is also responsible for not referring patients on. Rehabilitation and aftercare is always a priority for every doctor whose patient undergoes surgery, however, perhaps we need to re-think how best this can be given.
Chilton House, Chilton, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP18 9LR, Tel 01844 265200.